CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – TERRORISM, EU, CHINOOK CRASH – 14 February 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: In support of what the Secretary of State [Geoff Hoon] has just said, it would have been absurd if Carlos the Jackal had been arrested and claimed protection under the Geneva Convention. That would have been a manifestly ludicrous claim, but people could have argued, like the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), that until the claim was resolved, he had to be afforded such protection. Intelligence must be got from these [al-Qa'eda] prisoners, and that is why the protection under the Geneva Convention must not be inappropriately applied.

[Geoff Hoon: It is a fanciful example, but on this occasion I agree with the hon. Gentleman.]

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Dr Lewis: Is not the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mike Hancock) singing from a different song-sheet from his friends on the Labour Front Bench? They constantly tell us that the purpose of the European force is crisis management and not war-fighting or conflict. Now, however, the real danger is of a war breaking out in Europe and people from European states blundering into it without the Americans being involved. That is what we have been warning about all along.  

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Dr Lewis: I know that my right hon. Friend [James Arbuthnot] is coming to the end of his speech. Before he finishes it, will he comment on the fact that – I believe that I am correct – the RAF has now altered its rules so that, if anything similar were to happen again, deceased pilots could not be blamed in that way? If as a result of this case the RAF has decided that it is an injustice to blame deceased pilots in that way, surely it would only be justice to absolve those pilots?

[James Arbuthnot: I believe that that is so. My hon. Friend is right to say that the MOD has changed the rules and has decided to leave the attribution of blame for negligence to the civil courts, and it is right to have done that. I am aware of no other case in which deceased pilots have been found negligent. This is the only case in which that has happened.]